Am I home?

TonSai, Railay Krabi – October 17, 2016

I find it fascinating how my mind works. I prepared myself to arrive in a place completely different from everything I am used to, but then… I was so wrong! Thailand is way more similar to Brazil than I initially thought.

After noticing that I expected something else – the different instead of similar – I spent time trying to find a rational explanation to why Thailand reminds me so much of places that were already familiar to me.

Is it the latitude?

Is it the Portuguese influence? (Phuket town has a strong Sino-Portuguese architectural influence)

Is it globalization?

What is it about Thailand that feels so homey?

While trying to find an answer to the sense of familiarity, I focused on exploring what is – for a fact – different. Which leads me to food.

OMG! Forget everything you know, or think you know, about Thai food. What you find here is a whole new advanced level. This is the real deal.

I spent the first 10 days tasting as many different flavors as I could. It was actually the perfect timing because I arrived right in time for the Vegetarian Festival – so for someone who can be picky about meat like me, the possibilities were infinite.

During the first days I indulged myself with all the flavors and smells.

Trying to pick favorites was a mission impossible.

Spicy, mild, not spicy. Sweet. Sour. White rice, brown rice, sticky rice, rice noodles. Fried noodle, fried rice, soup, clear soup, dark soup. Vegetable stew. Leaves. Fresh greens beyond Thai basil and lemongrass.

If someone out there ever heard me saying I could live on potatoes, forget it! I could live on Thai food. Four times a day. Seven days a week.

Have I mentioned the fruits? OMG! OMG! OMG!

Longan, Ngo, Mangosteen, Durian, even Guava and Sao Wat Lot (Passion Fruit) have a special taste here. I could easily – and actually I did it for a day or two – live on fruits.

For days all I did was eat, take pictures of food, and learn a few food-related words in Thai 🙂

 

 

Then, between meals and visits to the market, I realized why Thailand feels so familiar to me.

I come from a family where social gatherings always happen around food. And suddenly I found myself in Phuket island, being hosted by a Thai family who also gets together around a round kitchen table, three times a day. And the table is full of a wide range of choices to “chim”[i] at all times.

In addition to the food, they are warm, kind, always smiling. They made me feel so at home that if they weren’t speaking Thai I could be in South America.

The streets also remind me of Brazil. Street dogs. Unfinished road work everywhere. People on the sidewalks, talking to each other, being loud. If it weren’t for driving on the “wrong side of the road” I could swear I was in a Brazilian coastal town.

When I finally found an explanation to my sense of familiarity I relaxed and allowed myself to enjoy this beautiful and smiley country in a lighter way – without the need to understand it “tim tim por tim tim” and with less expectations. This approach is taking me to very interesting places and I’m sure this is only the beginning.

[i] Chim = taste/try in Thai

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